Professor Tope Omoniyi (Sky) 1956–2017

From BAAL President Tess Fitzpatrick:

BAAL members will be saddened to hear that Tope Omoniyi (Sky) passed away this weekend, after a short illness. Tope was a valued contributor to language research and to BAAL activities (he served on the Executive Committee 2006-2008), and his presence in our applied linguistics community will be greatly missed.

Below is an obituary prepared by some of Tope’s colleagues, and a link to a memorial tribute page where colleagues and friends can share their memories of Tope:

 

Professor Tope Omoniyi (Sky) 1956–2017

Born in 1956 in Kaduna State, Nigeria, Tope Omoniyi – known to many of his friends as Sky – completed a BA and M.Phil at the University of Lagos, where he also taught, before being awarded a scholarship for a PhD at the University of Reading. This was to be the springboard for an international career spanning the National Institute of Education, Singapore, Trinity College, Dublin, the University of West London and Roehampton University. At Roehampton, he rose to the position of Professor of Sociolinguistics and also served as Director of the Centre for Research in English Language and Linguistics. Given the regrettable reality that very few Africans have achieved professorial status in a UK university, it goes without saying that it takes an individual of exceptional talents to carve out such a route.

Influenced by his earlier life in Nigeria and his political beliefs, Tope was firmly grounded in the real world. His research and publications were wide ranging. Identity was an important theme in Sociolinguistics of borderlands and Sociolinguistics of Identity. He played a leading role in scholarship on religion, as exemplified in his edited collection on Language and religion. His interests kept pace with many contemporary concerns, including globalization and migration. He was also one of the first to consider as an exciting phenomenon, worthy of study, the mobility within global networks of popular culture. And, of particular note, was his recent work on the vital role of indigenous languages in the delivery of effective public health in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Tope was a generous colleague and a mentor to many. He will be remembered as someone who both inspired and practised collaboration. Examples include the volumes coedited with colleagues: The Sociolinguistics of Identity (with Goodith White), Contending with Globalization in World Englishes with Mukul Saxena, and The Cultures of Economic Migration with Suman Gupta. An actor on the international stage, he led a research network on the Sociology of Language and Religion. He was a member of the AILA Africa Research Network and of the Globalisation, Identity Politics and Social Conflicts project, a collaborative research project initiated in the UK, India, and Nigeria and recently joined by colleagues in China, Iran, Morocco, and Bulgaria. He was also an early member of the BAAL ‘Language in Africa’ SIG. His willingness to sleep on the founding convenor’s floor so that he could support the first conference in Leeds was typical of both his lack of affectation and his commitment.

Tope approached teaching with curiosity, thoughtfulness and sensitivity, always placing students at the centre of his efforts. He was a highly effective communicator with a clear sense of audience. His inaugural lecture was a case in point: he informed, challenged and truly captured the imagination of those present, using a wide range of media, including videoconferencing with his father in Nigeria to illustrate a point, at a time when electronic communication was rather less developed than it is today.

However, relatively few people are aware of the extent of Tope’s talents: he was gifted and creative, a poet as well as an academic, producing two collections: Farting Presidents and Other Poems and Poems for a Century: An Anthology on Nigeria.

Tope’s death after a very short illness has come as a great shock to all who knew, loved and respected him as a warm and generous person in both his academic and personal life. He leaves behind his wife Karen, his children – Tife Nisha, Onaayo Mara and Feranmi – as well as his elderly mother, his siblings and in-laws. Sky, gentle giant, you will be very sorely missed.

Friends and colleagues wishing to pay tribute to his memory can visit:

http://tope-sky-omoniyi.forevermissed.com/

 

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